Leafs Scoring Search: Top 10 Forward Options from Cash Strapped Teams

Brad LeClair@beerad87Correspondent INovember 15, 2010

Leafs Scoring Search: Top 10 Forward Options from Cash Strapped Teams

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    As all Leaf fans well know, the club is struggling to find consistent offence from their forwards. In a last ditch attempt to bring in some much needed offence, Brian Burke and company decided that calling up top end prospect Nazem Kadri was the way to go.

    Many critics can spend hours debating whether it was really the correct time to bring up Kadri, but what's done is done.

    In his second NHL game ever, Kadri looked good at times, setting up line mates Nikolai Kulemin and Tyler Bozak with quality scoring chances. Like 95 percent of Leaf scoring chances, the puck was either stopped or missed the net, so Kadri's first point will have to wait.

    So with no center likely to come from within, the Leafs need to look elsewhere. With that said, you could argue the whole league should be targeted for trade by Burke—however I'm taking another angle.

    I believe Burke should be targeting the cash strapped teams of the NHL—the teams that are either over the cap or are going to be over the cap with IR'ed players returning and teams that don't have a lot of money to dish out to pending free agents on their teams.

10. Scottie Upshall: RW Phoenix Coyotes

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    Upshall, you could argue is a wasted option for the Leafs, but in my opinion, he really could be had from the Coyotes. Upshall, who has endured an injury-plagued career, was a former sixth overall selection by the Predators and plays a game that screams Brian Burke hockey.

    With the Coyotes facing financial uncertainty and ownership question marks, Upshall is set to become an unrestricted free agent at years end, he could be traded at the deadline, or hopefully for the Leafs case, before the deadline.

    Upshall has struggled early in his career staying healthy, never playing near a full season; his best output was 74 games in a season split between the Flyers and Predators in 2008-09. But the point is, he's a good depth forward to have, who can skate, hit and put the puck in the net. His career shooting percentage of 10.5 percent would be a welcome addition to the Leafs team.

    For comparison's sake, Phil Kessel's career shooting percentage is 10.8 percent, bare in mind he does shoot the puck more.

    At 6'0" 200 pounds and 27-years-old Upshall is just entering the prime of his career, however, with injuries plaguing him most of his career, he could have a little extra in his tank. I see him sort of like a Clarke MacArthur like add, a forgotten player in a system that doesn't really fit his game.

9. Jiri Hudler: C/RW Detroit Red Wings

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    The Red Wings are only about $29,000 over the cap, and it really leaves them no wiggle room to add anybody at the trade deadline to make their team better. But for all intents and purposes, their team is good as is, without adding anyone.

    However, Hudler makes my list for the simple reason he's struggling mightily this season and has seen his ice-time decreased steadily, where I've been hearing he's seeing time on the fourth line with Patrick Eaves and Darren Helm. Having a player play the fourth line at nearly $3 million a season seems a bit far fetched in my mind.

    At 5'9" 180 pounds, Hudler does not scream top line center nor does his size help the Leafs in any way going forward, however, he does have great hands and can score at will on goaltenders.

    In his last season in the NHL, he scored 23 times and added 34 assists in 82 games.

8. Blake Wheeler: C/RW Boston Bruins

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    At 6'5" 210 pounds, Wheeler is an intimidating presence on the ice. He has the size and skill to play on nearly any teams top six but has yet to put it all together.

    At 24-years-old, he has yet to hit his prime, and this former fifth overall selection by the Coyotes is looking for a larger role with the Bruins. However, the Bruins have so much depth up front, he's been usually playing on the third line.

    With an injury to David Krejci, he's been seeing time as the Bruins second line center playing between wingers Mark Recchi and Jordan Caron.

    However, when the salaries of Marc Savard and Marco Sturm return, the Bruins will be over the cap and will be looking to shed salary and fast.

7. Devin Setoguchi: San Jose Sharks

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    Setoguchi, a former eighth overall selection, has really started to struggle lately, having lost his top six spot in the Sharks lineup to up-and-coming rookie Logan Couture.

    Setoguchi, who is a former 30-goal scorer, has not lived up to that potential in the next two years of his career, only hitting 20 goals once since then. On a high-powered offensive team like the Sharks, Setoguchi's talents should easily get him 25 goals a season, if not more.

    Devin this season only has two goals and two assists in 15 games and is a team worst -7. Right now he's playing a checking role with the Sharks playing with Torrey Mitchell and winger John McCarthy, a position that I don't fit into what Setoguchi is all about.

    The Sharks have made it known they want defenseman, and the Leafs have many to give up if they want to.

    A deal that you could see go down could be Brett Lebda and a pick for Setoguchi, who is set to become a restricted free agent at years end. Lebda, who has not really fit in with the Leafs this season, is exactly the type of depth defenseman the Sharks would covet.

    A larger deal involving Tomas Kaberle could be discussed too, with the Leafs likely receiving Marc Eduoard Vlasic or Jason Demers along with Setoguchi going in the deal. But again, that's just a possible trade scenario, not the bible.

6. Andrew Ladd: LW Atlanta Thrashers

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    Andrew Ladd is enjoying a career year playing in Atlanta of all places. Starting the year off at nearly a point per game pace, Ladd is making the Blackhawks management eat their words for including him in their monster deal prior to the 2010 NHL Draft.

    Ladd, taken fourth overall by the Hurricanes in 2004, is starting to come into his own in the NHL. At 6'2" 205 pounds, Ladd has the size to at least hold his own in front of the net and play in a top line role with the Leafs.

    A very good all around player, Ladd, who's contract expires at the end of the year, will be set to become a restricted free agent at years end, and for a team such as Atlanta, would they be willing to pay the price?

    Ladd could see an increase to about four million dollars a season, which could be out of the Thrashers price range, as they still would have to resign the likes of Niclas Bergfors, Zack Bogosian and lastly Dustin Byfuglien to new deals.

5. Ville Leino: LW Philadelphia Flyers

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    The Flyers are in some bad cap shape right now. Having re-signed center Jeff Carter and right winger Claude Giroux recently to new long-term deals, the Flyers are currently looking at around $1.8 million in cap space for next season.

    Also having to note, they will need to try and resign the likes of Nikolai Zherdev, Daniel Carcillo, Andreas Nodl and Darrell Powe at the end of this season, the Flyers will still need to add bodies to their team for next year—with or without Leino.

    Ville Leino is set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season and will more than likely be making in the neighborhood of $2 to $3 million next season, given his offensive prowess in the playoffs last season.

    With that in mind, you could see the Flyers trade Leino for prospects or picks in next year's draft.

    This season, he's scored three goals and added 12 assists in 17 games with the Flyers.

4. Mike Ribeiro: C Dallas Stars

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    Mike Ribeiro is a very skilled, dynamic playmaker in the NHL, but at times can be very inconsistent. At $5 million a season, those inconsistencies need to be few and far between, and for the Stars, who will be welcoming rookies Scott Glennie and Jack Campbell to the fold in the coming years, will need to really get a good bang for their buck.

    With talk of there being limited funds to work with in Dallas, they could have a tough time either resigning Brad Richards, or if Richards is resigned, keeping Ribeiro in the fold going forward.

    Ribeiro, this season, has not scored much—much to many Leaf fans dismay—but he's found his name on the scorecard at the end of the night.

    In 15 games, he's added 14 assists but collected no goals. But as long as he can set up goals, I think Leaf fans could live with that.

3. Travis Zajac: C New Jersey Devils

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    The Devils, thanks to the Ilya Kovalchuk deal and some terrible luck in the injury department, are in the midst of one of their worst starts to a season in their history. The Devils squad, with no real prospects coming in the future other than maybe Mattias Tedenby, really are beginning to show their age.

    Goaltender Martin Brodeur has looked slow and not his regular dominant self this season, add to it veterans Brian Rolston and Jamie Langenbrunner have been injured and are having off-years, along with winger Patrik Elias, whose $6 million contract is looking like an albatross around the Devils organization.

    To make matters worse, the Devils lost perennial all-star and US Olympian Zack Parise to a knee injury and won't have him back in the lineup anytime soon.

    Could the Devils trade Travis Zajac and his $3.8 million salary? It is possible I believe if the package is right.

    The more likely targets to be dealt are centers Dainius Zubrus and Jason Arnott along with wingers Brian Rolston and Jamie Langenbrunner, but the possibility remains that Zajac could be dealt.

    At 6'3" 200 pounds, Zajac is the prototypical size for the Leafs top center spot and along with his ability to play defensively, could really be a great addition to the Leafs.

2. David Krejci or Marc Savard: C Boston Bruins

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    This one was tough, and I can't really decide, so I'm leaving it wide open right now. The Bruins, as many of you know, will need to add Marco Sturm and Marc Savard soon from the injured reserve, and by doing that, will put themselves over the cap.

    To make room, the team will have to trade some excess salary. The most likely man to be traded/demoted is obviously Michael Ryder, who makes a tidy $4 million a season and will become an unrestricted free agent at years end.

    With that said though, the Bruins have the best rotation of centers in the NHL with the likes of Marc Savard, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, David Krejci, Joe Colbourne and even Blake Wheeler see time playing the position.

    Obviously some may be moving positions in the future, but I feel at $3.75 million, Krejci could be a target to be dealt for some much needed defensive help to help aid Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.

    If Krejci isn't dealt, even though Savard signed a long-term deal, I feel he could be a target to be moved, and to tell you the truth, I would take him despite the injury concerns and the bloated contract.

    You could say desperate times call for desperate measures. However, one thing I will not do is trade one of the best contracts in the game (Kaberle) for one of the worst (Savard).

1. Brad Richards: C Dallas Stars

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    Brad Richards is easily the top player that could be available for the Leafs. Richards, who is in the last year of a deal that is paying him roughly $7.8 million a season, could just be too expensive for the Stars to afford.

    However, the possibility remains that the Stars resign him and decide to trade either Brendan Morrow or Mike Ribeiro instead.

    Richards, who is enjoying yet another wonderful season, is playing some of his best hockey of his career. Richards, along with James Neal and Loui Eriksson make up one of the best top lines in all of hockey.

    Richards has scored seven goals and added 12 assists in 15 games with the Stars this season, amazingly enough doing all that while being a +9 for the season. Richards, who is a perennial minus player, may just be enjoying a rare thing, but all-in-all, at least fantasy owners of Richards would agree, he's been a great addition to any of their teams.